NFL hits Harrison where it hurts
According to the NFL press release announcing the suspension, this is Harrison’s fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in the past three seasons.
In addition to four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010, Harrison also was fined twice for unnecessary roughness during that period. Harrison totaled six fines in that two-year period.
According to the NFL’s 2011 League Policies for Players manual: “Players who were fined for violations in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy.”
If that doesn’t describe Harrison, we don’t know what does.
We spent the day listening to Sirius NFL Radio and were amused at the predictable calls from the hoople heads in Pittsburgh trying to defend and justify what Harrison did.
The arguments ranged from denial – “he didn’t really hit him with his helmet” and “he doesn’t know any other way to play” – to ignorance of the rules – “he can hit him because McCoy was a runner” – to the absurd – “McCoy is taller than Harrison so he couldn’t help but hit him in the head.”
Maybe they should listen to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who told The Post-Gazette that, “(Harrison) hit him, he hit him illegally, he has to suffer the consequences.”
Several callers also employed the popular Ohio State defense of “(fill in the blank player) is worse and he’s never been suspended!” putting further weight behind our argument that OSU and Pittsburgh fans are very much alike.
And, of course, there were the conspiracy theories that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is out to get the Steelers and Harrison.
There is a tiny bit of truth in that last argument – the NFL does look at Harrison harder because he is a repeat offender and refuses to abide by the new rules of the game.
That’s why it was smart for the NFL to also release its guidelines for how it reviews on-field rules violations, a document the league provides to players at the start of every season. Read through it – or if you are a Steeler fan have someone read it to you – and you see that the NFL has a solid policy in place and clearly did not come up with the decision to suspend Harrison on a whim.
What none of Harrison’s defenders can explain, however, is why do you have to hit someone in the head in the first place? Think back to the play with McCoy: if Harrison drills him in the chest, the result of the play is the same.
Harrison wants to present himself as a martyr, but how is it that the rest of the league can adjust to the new rules, but he can’t?
“He told me that it was laughable that this was the case — it wasn’t a funny situation but it’s laughable that he would get suspended over what he felt was a very, very small incident,” former Steeler Jerome Bettis said on Tuesday after talking to Harrison for ESPN’s NFL Live show. “In his words, ‘If I would have really hit him I would have close to knocked him out.’
“James said that he’s concerned this will happen again and then there will be a larger suspension,” Bettis said, “But he said to me, ‘I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to play my game. If they suspend me they suspend me, but I’m not going to change the way I play football.’”
The thing is, Harrison doesn’t have to change the way he plays. He can continue to think he’s above the law, he’ll just have to face the consequences when they come down.
We kind of hate that Harrison doesn’t get it. As a graduate of The Kent State University, we like seeing Kent players make it in the NFL and enjoy rooting for Josh Cribbs, Julian Edelman, Usama Young, Antonio Gates and the rest. But Harrison’s repeated inability to abide by the rules makes it impossible to root for him.
(Photo by Getty Images)